New Search And Seizure Policies For Cleveland Police Get Monitor's Approval

photo of Matthew Barge
Consent decree monitor Matthew Barge addressing Cleveland City Council in 2016. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
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The monitor overseeing the police consent decree in Cleveland signed off on new search-and-seizure policies, according to a Friday federal court filing.

Under the new rules, if an officer to conducts a warrantless search, they must:

  • not use gender, race, ethnicity, national origin or perceived sexual orientation to establish probable cause, unless it is part of a description that includes other identifying factors;
  • not rely on a person's location or presence in a high crime area as the sole indication that the person has been, is or is about to engage in criminal activity; and
  • inform a person of their right to refuse a search when asking for consent to perform a warrantless search.

Additionally, if an arrest is made for the crime of obstructing official business, resisting arrest or assaulting an officer without any other violation, a supervisor must be notified immediately and that supervisor has to respond to the scene.

The new policies also compel officers to give more specific reasons in their reports after conducting warrantless searches: "Officers will not use 'canned' or conclusory language without supporting detail in documents or reports documenting investigatory stops, searches or arrests."

Matthew Barge, the monitor overseeing Cleveland’s police reform agreement, said the new policies replace old, lenient guidelines that allowed officers to violate people’s constitutional rights and often allowed officers avoid accountability by filing non-specific explanations in reports afterwards.

The city of Cleveland entered into an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to reform its police department, known as a consent decree, in 2015 after a lengthy investigation by the federal governmet. The investigation uncovered a decades-long pattern of excessive force used by Cleveland police.  The reform process is expected to take five to seven years, according to the settlement.

The new policies now await U.S District Judge Solomon Oliver’s final approval.

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